I've been reading Grognardia
blog lately. Maliszewski writes about retro roleplaying, and he's been saying interesting things.
His posts made me read my old AD&D and Forgotten Realms books. I could almost think of running AD&D again, especially as reading the Waterdeep boxed set and the Waterdeep and the North
module gave me ideas for an unusual campaign. At least I never before realized this aspect of Watedeep, even while setting adventures there.
Basis of the campaign would be some secret organization wanting to have more openness in the city. This is of course somewhat anachronistic, but as I read these books first time with thought after 15 years, I saw them with different eyes. Waterdeep's government is very scary: it consists of an unknown number of people, usually thought to be from ten to fifteen, whose identities are also unknown, except the one who is their public face. Laws and punishments are harsh, and are enforced through copious magic. Detect lies and Speak with dead are mentioned in multiple places. I cringed at the bit where the Guard just kills troublemakers, and if communication with the deceased suspect are satisfying enough, they are raised. I think most people learn to steer well away from these guys - or they Constitution will drop fast.
There's also an unwitting secret police, and even most of the government doesn't know this. There's also other stuff hinted at - who are these 'Harpers' and what exactly is their plan? The Watch also have unlimited power to search every residence in the city looking for illegalities.
I know that most of the government is labeled as good, and the Harpers are usually the main good secret organization in the Realms. This is where Maliszewski's idea of getting rid of Know Alignment spells and effects would be nice. This way the continuation of the government is never a sure thing, especially when they do have their own plans. This could turn Waterdeep into a magical police state, or nearer to one at least. Waterdhavians are described as being mostly concerned about trade and profit, so this could be some kind of a city state where all the people learn not to annoy the powers in the city and just go about on their business. The magical surveillance can't be in every place at once, so there are still possibilites for shady stuff, but as nobody knows who the Lords of Waterdeep are, one should be very, very careful.
My campaign idea would be to play relatively low-level characters in Waterdeep in a conspiracy. I don't know if they should be part of an existing organization or just be a small conspiracy in the City, but I think there's some group in the Forgotten Realms that could be made to fit. Also a noble or a merchant targeted too much by the faceless and nameless Lords could want to unmask them and perhaps bring some accountability to Waterdeep.
Also this time, after reading about Ed Greenwood on the Internet, I realized the numerous festhalls and ladies of negotiable affection in the books. I didn't notice them that much when playing AD&D, but I mostly played in Forgotten Realms as a teenager and we didn't add sex to our games that much then.
Waterdeep still seems like a fun, if somewhat silly, place to run AD&D. The fun is just different than what it used to be.